Europe and Central Asia
15 Dec 2017

In the bleak midwinter

Snowy owl © Shutterstock
By Christopher Sands

In his editorial for this month’s edition of the Europe & Central Asia newsletter, Christopher Sands looks for rays of hope to brighten up ‘the bleak mid-winter’…


In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Christina Rossetti (1872)

Why so bleak? It was just a year ago that we celebrated throughout the BirdLife European family and with many concerned citizens that our #NatureAlert campaign to save the EU Birds & Habitat Directives (which protect our environment continent-wide) were successful – having mobilized over half a million citizens to register their enthusiasm for these essential laws with the European Commission. At the beginning of 2017, we managed to enlist over 250,000 citizens to demand a complete revision of the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) to deliver greener, more sustainable farming. And just this month, many folks around Europe have joined our call to the EU to ban the use of lead shot in wetlands, responsible for poisoning over a million wetland birds each year.

These are benchmarks in the kind of broad citizen involvement and mobilization that our EU leaders say are essential to the EU’s future. And of course, beyond the EU’s borders, we continue to intensify our work with partners & local communities to save such precious spots as Montenegro’s Ulcinj Salina, her wetlands and saltpans.

So why do we feel a bit bleak as the year winds down? Well, November has unfortunately been a month “in the bleak midwinter”. From the European Parliament’s Fisheries Committee failing absolutely to protect seabirds and the sea; from the Polish government’s shameless and blatant contempt for the European Court of Justice demanding a halt to their rapacious logging of the protected millennial primeval Białowieża Forest; from the Parliament’s Industry & Energy Committee caving in to the farming and forestry lobbies ensuring more devastating climate and biodiversity outcomes – and lastly, DG Agriculture’s recent CAP Communication completely ignoring citizens’ calls to reform the CAP to deliver genuinely sustainable and green farming – well, forgive us momentarily our bleak ‘esprit’. 

Jean Monnet, the father of the current European Union, wrote “Institutions, once created, have their own force which goes beyond people’s will. But only the people can change and enrich the things the institutions then transmit to future generations.”

So, away you bleakness, in solidarity with those many citizens who have worked to change and enrich our Europe, we banish you and renew our commitment in 2018 to shape and demand that our institutions work for citizens and serve citizens. We will all work together across the fullest possible landscape of civil society to transmit to future generations a landscape rich in biodiversity and sustainability, a culture of respect, love for the other and confidence that, as we cried from the ramparts last December, “Tous pour la Nature, La Nature pour Tous”!


Christopher Sands - Head of Communications, BirdLife Europe & Central Asia



Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on the ECA section of this website are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe.